The Los Angeles Film Festival kicked off Thursday night with the North American premiere of Pedro Almodovar’s raunchy screwball comedy I’m So Excited! at LA Live’s Regal Cinemas. And if the jaded openingnight LA crowd did not demonstrably respond (there was just small polite applause at the end) with the enthusiasm past Almodovar films have enjoyed from Cannes to New York, it did send off the 11-day fest on a fun note. In no small part that owes to the fact that the pic is about sex and Almodovar himself explained the film’s title as “like being very horny”. Sony Pictures Classics is releasing the film and was pleased to grab the prestigious opening slot of the Film Independent signature film fest. And of course LA Film Fest was thrilled to get Almodovar.

SPC co-president Michael Barker told me afterwards that this is the first of Almodovar’s films to premiere in North America outside of New York. “The time was right for this one and Pedro was totally on board with coming here with it as well”, he said. In fact an ebullient Almodovar told me he was extremely impressed with the Regal’s massive screen and bright projection even though Sony took him to dinner during the movie. “I actually wanted to stay and watch. I grew up seeing movies in big theatres like this. I love the experience.” According to the two-time Oscar-winning director (All About My Mother, Talk To Her) his latest is the #1 box office attraction this first half of the year in his native Spain. And, as he tells it, that was no easy trick due to the failing economy which has seen double-digit declines and caused a steep downturn in moviegoing. Almodovar suggested people prefer to watch downloads on the Internet rather than pay the money for a moviegoing experience and that saddens him, although he’s glad his film is surviving in Spanish multiplexes despite the hardships. For him this pic was a bit of a lark after the more serious The Skin I Live In, which played in competition in Cannes in 2011. I’m So Excited! is about a jetliner en route to Mexico which encounters technical problems and then all hell ensues — a freewheeling farce that at least one Oscar voter told me later left him with tears running down his face due to laughter. Others were not as enthusiastic. It doesn’t matter. This likely won’t be an awards contender — comedies rarely are — but it returns Almodovar to his initial wild style of humor and that’s always welcome. (more…)